17 November 2009

I just can't leave this one alone.

One of my most awesomest girlfriends, generally referred to as "Pretty Bitch," wrote a blog on Friday, which I just came across today. I have some things to say about it.

And we all know I'm never one to keep my mouth shut, right?

So go read her blog and then come back here, m'kay? GO!

Basically, Nat holds a When Harry Met Sally belief about the relationships that can happen between members of the opposite sex. That men and women can never really be "just friends." While I think she makes some very good points, and I agree that the whole situation can be sticky, I have a slightly different opinion.

I might agree 100%, if I hadn't seen a male-female friendship with my own two eyes. My ex-boyfriend and his friend/coworker were/are FRIENDS. And only that. When they started working together, they were both married. Her marriage ended first, and she was...a bit of a mess (for good reason). His marriage ended a couple of years later and no one would know if he was a mess or not because he doesn't show emotions like a human being. But there were opportunities for them to test the boundaries of their relationship and neither of them even wanted to. Simply put, they're not attracted to each other.

Now, I know what you're thinking. I'm being naive and they were probably doin' it like monkeys behind my back. But they weren't. I can't say I know that for a fact, but I've never for a second doubted it. She met a guy and now they're married. My ex is living with his current girlfriend. And my ex and his friend have never even looked sideways at each other in that way, to my knowledge.

If they were the last people on earth, would they do it? Probably. But that's not really saying much.

While I do think that male-female friendships can complicate and put pressure on an intimate relationship, I think that's about more than just "men and women can't be friends." Your relationships are all based on trust, or should be, if they mean anything. And not trusting your partner to be able to have a friendship with a member of the opposite sex is just...sad. And more likely a problem with your relationship, not with your friendships.

Additionally, I have several male friends of my own who are just that. Friends. I could turn to these guys for just about anything, and I would be there for them in the same way. And no one wants to make the sex with anyone else, or if they do, all parties are keeping their pretty parts in their pants.

I'm not sure that I agree that a fleeting thought about another person naked or what it might be like to kiss that person constitutes awkwardness in a friendship (Honestly, I've contemplated this about nearly everyone I members aside). Hell, once I had a sexy dream about one of my girlfriends and we've survived just fine. Though she was more than a little disturbed when I told her about it, as she's the least bi-curious person on the planet.

The statement "Cheating is anything that dilutes the relationship" just...makes no sense to me. Gaining 150 pounds could dilute the relationship. Taking up a hobby and spending all your free time on it could dilute the relationship. Having to travel five days a week for work could dilute the relationship. All of those things are probably signs that something is wrong, but not a single one of them involves a third party. I would hardly call them cheating. I think I know what Natalie was trying to say (that anything you do with a member of the opposite sex that dilutes the relationship is cheating), and I respect her opinion, but I don't think this is the best way to say it.

In truth, if you're closer to a same sex friend to a level that leaves out your significant other, you're probably diluting the relationship and treating your boy/girlfriend unfairly, but it's rare to hear anyone get worked up about that.

I think that men and women can absolutely just be friends. And that it's perfectly acceptable to retain close friendships to members of either sex while you're in a serious relationship. Don't be stupid about it. Your significant other should probably be your closest relationship, if you're serious about it and it's gotten to that stage. But it doesn't mean that it's unhealthy or wrong to have close friendships. Period.

What do you think? Is this possible?

(I took a poll of some online friends. It seems that most men think this is totally possible and most women think that it's not. Obviously, there were a few exceptions and a couple of "maybe" or "in the right circumstances" answers, as well.)


Toe said...

It's the sex that makes it impossible to be friends with an Ex. Oh, you can be friends until you or him get another girlfriend / boyfriend then the new boyfriend or girlfriend get jealous even if you insist you're just friends with the Ex and chaos ensues. Unless, that new boyfriend / girlfriend doesn't care that your Ex as a friend has seen your naughty parts (which they might say they don't but they really do).

M said...

OK, so I answered your poll but it was kind of out of context, so I'd like to clarify my response:

I think it is totally possible to have friends of the opposite sex while in a relationship and refrain from anything that might constitute cheating (and I agree more with your definition of cheating than Natalie's). Most of my friends are guys because I just relate better to them, as a general rule, and I wouldn't give them up if a boyfriend asked me because, like you said, it's about trust.

However, I have very few guys friends that I haven't or wouldn't hook up with in a "neither of us is in a relationship" situation. Sometimes we stay friends after, sometimes we don't. Rarely is it anything particularly emotion-based...but sex is almost always part of the equation with my guy friends, it's just a matter of whether an appropriate opportunity presents itself.

So when I said "I've never been able to do it," that's what I meant.

NatalieCottrell said...

First of all, many thanks for the shout out, lady!

Second, I absolutely love how you can build upon and disagree with my blog, and it is done so eloquently and respectfully. In fact, I totally see your point of view and agree with your wording very much. You definitely captured the spirit of my blog, and are one of those people I hope to aspire to in terms of trust and maturity when it comes to relationships. (I've had some set backs, to be sure.)

Third, I definitely love that people can handle the opposite-sex friendships with such grace. I hope I can have a little more faith in that arrangement as I, like M, definitely enjoy the company of men. (Not that I don't ADORE my girlfriends, but you know this.)

Lastly, I heart you, Shiny Shine Shine.

Stevie said...

I have several men in my life with whom I've been friends since grade school. I have never been attracted to any of them. They may want to get in my pants, but the subject has never come up. If they do want to get in my pants, they've never told me, even when I've been single. So yes, it is totally possible for men and women to have a platonic relationship with each other.

I love this debate! Great post.

Graygrrrl said...

Most of my friends are guys, as I'm one of those "guys-girls". I enjoy hanging out with them and seem to have more in common with them sometimes. On the same note, I have one really good male friend that I started talking to simply because he was cute. Now we're just friends and the thought of anything carnal happening between the two of us makes me throw up a little (though I should probably get over it as we are apparently marrying when we're 35 so he can impregnate me. Uh, no, but that's cute).
I've also found that some of my male friends harbored ideas about me when we first met, but, as you say; eveyone kept it to themselves.
I think the important thing in male-female friendships is to be honest with yourself. Do you want to potentially jeopardize the relationship? Do you even have a chance or will they laugh at you?

Jay Ferris said...

The dream was about Natalie, wasn't it? And judging from her comment above, she may just be a little more bi-curious than you think.

Jodey/Fat Chick Biker said...

It is absolutely possible. I have a very good male friend who lives in Northern Canada. He has come to visit me 4 or 5 times over the past year and we have enjoyed the hell out of every single minute we've spent together. He's met and eaten dinner with my husband, hung out with me and my kids (cuz hubs was out of town when my friend was in town) and we've hung out together with a number of my adult friends.

We're very open with our relationship - we love each other, and here's the important part, AS FRIENDS. I've never had a sexual thought about him in my life and likely never will. I just don't find him sexually attractive. Yes, I think he's a good looking guy, but he's my friend...and I don't think of him in that way. It doesn't feel right.

It's funny, though, because we are both very touchy people, and neither of us gets enough touch in our current relationships, so we're always hugging or holding hands or touching in some friendly way, because we both need the human contact.

I cannot tell you how many people have asked us both if we are sleeping with each other. It's VERY difficult for people to understand that a man and a woman CAN be just friends...and there not be any sex.

But like you, Shine, I know it can be done because I do it. And it works out just fine. :)

Anonymous said...

Just to complicate things further, what about very close friendships between people of the same sex, but one of them is gay? Do we assume some sort of attraction as the glue in those situations? or are people of the same sex simply assumed to have enough similar interests to keep a friendship alive?

Johnny Virgil said...

I created this graph for you. I'm joking, of course.

Kind of.

Trixie said...

Absolutely possible. I've been friends with a guy for 17 years and neither of us has the slightest interest in each other for anything more than that. We had plenty of opportunity to have something happen also. My feelings to him are more like a family member from the day I met him and he feels the same about me.

~Cardboard Sea~ said...

I've had both experiences. I had an incredibly close friendship with a guy I met in high school - we even slept in the same bed together, but we never touched, never kissed. And it obviously doesn't count, but being in theatre in high school, I was a fag hag.

A few years ago, I got really close with a guy who was dating a friend of mine - all four parties (my future husband included) were friends. Well, it turned out his relationship was on the rocks, and he was basically scoping out the next chick to hop to. Truth be told, it broke my heart. I felt like we were as close as siblings, but it was all a sham.

So, I don't know. I guess it's possible, but in my adult years it seems less and less so.

The Odd Duck said...

Considering the fact that A) I have a penis and B) about 70-80% of my close friends are female I am going to have to go with yes they can be just friends.

Just A Girl said...

I have a lot of male friends. There have been occasional drunken "let's make out because we're bored" moments with a couple of them, but that wasn't from legitimate feelings. And afterward, things went right back to normal.

I think it's possible for sure.

longredcape said...

If I asked my boyfriend to dump all his female friends, he'd have none left. I'm not jealous of them because he knew them before he knew me, and if he'd wanted to date them, he would have.

I also have a guy friend that I've known way, WAY longer than my boyfriend--"Andy." Andy dated a girl last year who was 100% convinced that we were secretly in love with each other and that if they broke up it was only a matter of time before Andy and I started dating. Again, if we'd wanted to date, we would have dated.

notahitchingpost said...

So, I totally tried making this same point a couple months ago ( I think it is 100% possible for a hetero-male/hetero-female to be just friends. I don't think everyone is capable of it, but that doesn't mean that no one is!

Margaret Benbow said...

It's possible for a truly grownup man and adult woman to be friends...but if one of the equation is a never-grew-up, eternally-sex-addled, hop-anything, drooling love monkey, it's impossible. Send him (and it's almost always the Him) to the chimp colony where he belongs!

Gofahne said...

I am so proud of my little prodding to get this "debate" in print that I can barely see straight. I've had this EXACT discussion with both of you. And I always leave intrigued.

I've had and have many male friends, but I could never prove that "just friends" existed because every single one of those relationships has crossed a line at some point. Very rarely was it acted upon, but it was there. I've always just resorted to, "you'll have to trust that I'd never jeapordize anything Mr. My Boyfriend."

You and Natalie BOTH have good points. And the fact that you can disagree so properly and both make me think makes me VERY proud to call you my friends.

Ha. (to Jay) Natalie would NEVER be disturbed by a dream like that. We'd all just laugh and say what we ALWAYS say, "damn us for loving the penis".

GingerMandy said...

it's rare, but it happens. one of my ex's is now one of my best friends. it took us awhile to get around to this point and a lot of not talking, but i couldn't picture my life without him anymore.

peterdewolf said...

Pretty Bitch makes a good point.

Or I just wanted the excuse to call someone "Pretty Bitch."

Jenny said...

last year I was living with A, who spent probably half his waking hours in my room, when I wasn't in his. We were inseparable - and although we don't see each other so much these days we're still close and he still sees me at my most natural and least likely to put on a guard (even though these days I'm a lot less self-conscious and guarded anyway, the point still stands). He is absolutely my closest friend.

When we met he had a massive thing for me and I broke his heart (!) but we got past that and now he has a girlfriend, a girl who actually he liked for years before even meeting me, and a relationship which is among the most secure and comfortable and sane that I know (barring that of my parents). I'm not jealous, he's not secretly lusting after me - yes, it is possible. But I'll acknowledge also that in my experience it's certainly rare.

Maryx said...

Now there's a hard one to contemplate. I think it IS possible. But there are just so many factors to consider and so many emotions and things, that no, it usually doesn't happen.

AWESOME post. Both of you.